Optical retailer Vision Express, which was founded in the North East, has acquired 65 stores from Rayner Opticians, bringing the group’s total number of outlets in the UK and Ireland to 367.
Thirty eight of the nationwide stores will become part of the Vision Express portfolio and will continue to trade from their existing locations, under current teams, with Vision Express branding. These include stores at Chester-le-Street, as well as some in Yorkshire, such as those in Whitby, Baildon, Ilkley, Keighley, Selby, Wetherby and Yeadon.
The 27 remaining properties will transfer optical services to nearby Vision Express premises, with the firm planning to retain what it calls “the valued experience of the new teams” within its store network.
Vision Express was founded in 1988 when its first store was opened at Metrocentre, Gateshead. Several employees there have been with the company ever since.
The firm, which is part of Europe’s largest optical retail group GrandVision, also has stores in South Shields, Durham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Stockton on Tees, Morpeth and Berwick upon Tweed.
“Our roots are in the North East,” said operations director Neil McGowan. “We have an excellent loyal customer base, and have traded consistently well over the past 25 years.”
Vision Express has also established a strong presence throughout the country and now employs over 4,000 people.
Previous acquisitions include that of Batemans in 2008 and, more recently, it took on 12 stores from Crown Eyeglass Ltd.
The last three years have seen considerable growth at the company, which reported a 6% increase in operating profit in 2012 to £16.4m.
The latest acquisition sees Vision Express take over 62% of Rayners’ premises – although the value of the deal is not being disclosed.
Vision Express chief executive, Jonathan Lawson, said: “This is a very exciting time. The Vision Express brand and business has been performing strongly for the last three years.
“Therefore it is timely that we seek opportunities in the right location, to increase our market share and bring the Vision Express experience to our new customers, who we look forward to welcoming to our latest Vision Express stores.”
He added that the group had enjoyed success through a strong focus on value, service and quality for its customers.
“I think the market as a whole will continue to be challenged, as is any market which is relying upon customers to part with disposable income,” he said.
“Therefore we can only grow at our competitors’ expense.
“Our aim is to be the best, not the biggest; therefore we will continue to seek opportunities in the right locations, at the right price.”
Director of human resources Kate Clayton said of the latest developments: “We extend a warm welcome to each new member of the team and look forward to working together to ensure a seamless customer transition and ongoing customer service experience.”